Visitors to San Francisco, one of America’s most iconic cities, are likely to take a classic cable car ride. Even if you haven’t ever been to San Francisco, you probably can conjure up an image in your mind’s eye of some scene in a movie or TV show like Full House or some other movie that includes a San Francisco cable car. Or maybe you remember the classic cable car fight scene from the James Bond Movie, Moonraker, which takes place in the Sugarloaf Mountain Cable Car in Rio de Janeiro.
Well, Pittsburgh has its own famous cable car ride, otherwise known, as the “Incline”. At one time, Pittsburgh had 15 inclines, shuttling people up and down Mount Washington, located across from downtown Pittsburgh. Two remain today, the Duquesne Incline and the Monongahela Incline– both built in the 1870’s, sometimes referred to as “working museums”. Both inclines are registered in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania. The 20 passenger cable car has no operator on board, as he is busy in the station manning the engine that is used to power the cable that pulls the cars up and down the inclined track…inclines with grades of 30-35 degrees. It’s a very gentle 2 ½ minute ride, at a speed of 6 miles per hour – luckily the length of track is less than 800 feet long or you would have to pack a lunch! The inclines are enjoyed by many tourists and still used by commuters on a regular basis.
It’s opened 365 days a year, until 12:45am, rain or shine…or snow! If you haven’t taken a ride yet, it should be on your “must do” list.
My first ride was an adventuresome 4th grader. One of the neighborhood dad’s decided to give us a little learning experience and set up a “field trip” to the Buhl Planetarium (now known as the Carnegie Science Center). Riding the Incline was a reward for our good behavior. We were all excited as we boarded, but once we started to descend, the sinister side of sweet Mr. S took over and he began to joke about noticing a tear in the cable. (Little did I know at the time, that although the cables can withstand almost 20 years of use, they are removed and changed every two years.) My ride was definitely memorable, as my enthusiasm turned to fear and the butterflies in my stomach mixed with my most recent meal- an Isaly’s chipped ham sandwich, …well, it wasn’t a pretty site! I’ve had many more memorable incline rides since then, but there is no memory as vivid as my first!
You haven’t experienced Pittsburgh if you haven’t ridden the incline at least once. Even Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes didn’t leave town without riding the Duquesne Incline! And the view of the Pittsburgh skyline from the top of Mt. Washington is breathtaking – day or night, any season of the year…but that’s another story!
Scared of Heights or Small spaces? No worries, there’s a ton of other things you can do in Pittsburgh , including places for ice cream, places to go to work off the ice cream , and places like the Phipps Conservatory if you’re more into nature.